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Toward sustainable urbanization on Mainstreet Cascadia

Mainstreet Cascadia is a band of urban development stretching from the Canadian city of Vancouver, British Columbia to the US city of Eugene, Oregon. The rate and pattern of urbanization there have produced deep public concern over growth related problems and negative environmental consequences. City and regional plans have been prepared in response to these conditions with the common goal of promoting more sustainable urbanization. Some cities in the area already exhibit elements of sustainable urbanization and census data indicate these places are measurably different from other places. Demographic and market trends suggest the plans can be successfully implemented.


The International Centre for Sustainable Cities (ICSC) is part of Canada's response to Agenda-21 of the 1992 United Nations Conference on Environment and Development. The Centre receives support from the Government of Canada and in collaboration with other organizations carries out demonstration projects promoting sustainable urbanization.

One of the first of these projects is the Georgia Basin Sustainable Urbanization Project. An initial report was released in March of 1994 (The Cascadia Institute and The Discovery Institute, 1994). It provided bi-national policy context, a snapshot of current initiatives, and a basis for further work. It identified sustainability, transportation, trade and economic development as issues for the region.

This paper is based on the second report of the Georgia Basin project (Pivo, 1995a). It examines urbanization trends along "Mainstreet Cascadia", identifies growth patterns that promote sustainable development and points to "low impact cities" that might be models for other cities to follow.

Georgia Basin-Puget Sound lies at the heart of what many are now calling "Cascadia". Cascadia includes the provinces of British Columbia, Alberta and the Yukon in Canada, as well as the states of Washington, Oregon, Idaho and Montana in the US.

At its core, Cascadia contains one of the fastest growing, economically vital, ecologically sensitive, and politically complex urban conurbations in North America. This is Mainstreet Cascadia which extends as a nearly continuous band of urban development along US Interstate Highway 5 in Oregon and Washington and through the Lower Mainland and southern Vancouver Island of British Columbia.

Mainstreet Cascadia runs past cities, farms and forests connecting several major metropolitan areas and rural towns and centers. Among these are the US state capital of Salem, Oregon and Olympia, Washington and the Canadian provincial capital of Victoria, British Columbia. Along this corridor are the international cities of Seattle and Tacoma in Washington and Vancouver in British Columbia. Important regional centers, such as Portland, Ore- gon and Bellingham, Washington also contribute to its vitality.

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